Power games: Australia may not accept India’s G2G trainer deal

Shahid Faridi

Procurement blues
Australia may not accept India’s G2G trainer deal

Australia may not accept India’s government-to-government (G2G) defence deal offer for the supply of home-built Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) twin-seat Lead-in Fighter Trainer (LIFT) aircraft. India had offered to sell 35 LCA-LIFT aircraft to Australia through a G2G deal. Sources said that the Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Richard Marles, who held talks with defence minister Rajnath Singh on June 22 in New Delhi, informally indicated Australia’s lack of interest in the Indian offer. According to sources, India had made a formal offer for the LCA-LIFT G2G deal during the India-Australia bilateral defence talks in New Delhi on September 10, 2021. India wanted to supply LCA-LIFT, which is to be built by state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), for the Royal Australian Air Force. The deal was reportedly worth over US $1 billion with a unit cost of around $40 million. The Royal Australian Air Force had on June 2, 2021 issued a Request for Information (RFI) for procurement of future LIFT aircraft for replacement of its existing trainers. Boeing of US, BAE Systems of the UK, , Leonardo SpA of Italy, Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd of India and Korea Aerospace Industries of South Korea have responded to the RFI. Boeing has offered its T-7A Red Hawk, BAE Systems has offered its upgraded Hawk, Leonardo has offered M-346 trainers, Korea Aerospace Industries has offered its T-50 advanced jet trainer, while Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd has offered its LCA-LIFT aircraft. HAL’s LIFT aircraft will be utilised for fighter training after the advanced jet training stage and before the induction of pilots into a front-line fighter squadron. On LIFT, trainee pilots will get exposed to new technologies such as Helmet Mounted Display, Beyond Visual Range Missile, an advanced Active Electronically Scanned Array Radar, in-flight refuelling, etc. HAL Is expected to roll out its first LCA-LIFT aircraft in 2025.

Bigger tenure
Government planning to increase judges’ retirement age?

There are murmurs in the corridors of Shastri Bhawan Bhawan that the government may be considering increasing the age of retirement for the judges of High Courts and the Supreme Court of India. Though the babus of the ministry of law and justice are tight-lipped, members of the bar and the bench do not rule out the possibility. Reliable sources said that the bench is of the opinion that their retirement age should be increased. Judges of the Supreme Court of India retire at the age of 65, while the retiring age for High Court judges is 62 years. The entry age for judges in the High Court is 45 years. Members of the bench, especially in the Supreme Court, say that by the time they complete their stint in the High Courts and climb the ladder for elevation to the apex court, they are already close to their retirement age. A large number of judges from both the Supreme Court and High Courts have supported the idea of increasing the retiring age. Chief Justice of India (CJI) NV Ramana too has thrown his weight behind the demand. At a recent webinar, Justice Ramana said, “I think 65 years is too early an age... I am still left with a decent amount of energy. I hope I will find the right avenue to invest my energy for the sake of people.” Judges in the US Supreme Court are appointed for life.

IAF project stalled
Russia-Ukraine war hits IAF’s Ilyushin upgrade plan

The Indian Air Force’s long-pending plan for modernising its ageing Ilyushin heavy-lift transport aircraft fleet has been stalled indefinitely due to ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict. India had bought IL-76MD heavy-lift aircraft in 1985 and IL-78MKI mid-air refuelling tankers in 2003 from Russia. IAF had planned to undertake overhaul and upgrade of 14 IL-76MD and 6 IL-78MKI tankers costing around $600 million with help from Russian and Ukraine defence companies. But the war has forced the IAF to shelve the project indefinitely as neither country is in a position to undertake the work while the conflict continues. This has serious implications on the operational capability of the fleet and it may have to be grounded in the absence of spares and service support. The IAF is fully dependent on Russia and Ukraine for supplies of spares, sub-assemblies and maintenance support for these two types of aircraft. The IAF has so far failed to get spares for these aircraft manufactured locally. Sources said that some of these aircraft are already grounded due to the non-availability of spares and material support. They said that both aircraft require avionics and engine upgrades besides the installation of new communication and navigation suites which cannot be done without the support of the original equipment manufacturer, Ilyushin Aviation Complex of Russia. A large number of IL-78MKI aircraft are in dire need refuelling hydrants and servicing of refuelling pods, without which they may soon become inoperable.